The Golubac Fort lies on the Danube’s right bank, at the very entrance to the Iron Gates. It was built on a rocky outcrop of a smaller hill, a branch of the Homolje Mountains. City walls follow the natural form of the terrain. Nine massive towers 25 meters in height are connected by a rampart and distributed in a manner that enabled the residents to defend the town from both land and water. The town was reached over a bridge leading across a water-filled moat.
The year of its construction has not been ascertained, but the first written record of the town dates back to 1335. The history of Golubac is a tumultuous one: the town was owned by the Hungarians, followed by the Ottoman Turks, who held it until 1868. All towers are square, except for the donjon tower, which has a polygonal lower section and a cylindrical upper part, which is why it is often referred to as the ‘Hat Tower’. The shape of the towers indicates that the town was constructed in the pre-firearms era. With the invention of firearms, towers along the west wall were reinforced by polygonal or cylindrical massive enforcements up to two meters thick. Inner towers retained their square shape. At the same time, a polygonal Turkish tower was added to the bastion, with shafts and galleries for cannons, deployed on two levels. It is still unknown how old the fort actually is and who first began its construction. The only thing that has been established for certain is that the first fortification in Golubac on the Danube was built by the Romans in the first century AD. Roman Emperor Diocletian resided in the fort around 299 AD. The town was later destroyed by the Huns, only to be rebuilt by Emperor Justinian. The earliest reference to the town in written historical records dates back to 1335, while somewhat later it was also mentioned by Constantine of Kostenets, a medieval writer and chronicler. Following the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, Golubac fell into the hands of the Ottomans and for centuries it remained a bone of contention between the Hungarians and Turks. It was freed in 1867, and was one of the last towns in Serbia to be liberated. Austrian traveler and naturalist Felix Kanitz recorded in 1895 that the settlement in Golubac comprised 293 houses and had 1,533 residents, as well as a church dedicated to St Nicholas, built in 1843. Archeological research revealed over a hundred ceramic artifacts, iron tools, axes, scraping irons, pickaxes, door latches and spears, which are proof of the rich past of the Golubac fortress.
Legend has it that the town was named Golubac (pigeon-town) because of Byzantine Princess Jelena, who was imprisoned in the main keep (the Hat Tower) overlooking the rest of the town. In order to alleviate her suffering and solitude, the Princess began to keep pigeons, hence the name of the town. According to another legend, a beautiful maiden named Golubana lived in the town long ago. Tales of her beauty reached a Turkish Pasha, who started wooing her, bringing her gifts of silk and pearls, trying to persuade her to marry him. Beautiful Golubana refused Pasha’s gifts and endearments, so he ordered her to be punished by strapping her to a rock above the Danube. She was tortured and left to the birds who mutilated her body. There are also stories claiming that the town was thus named because of the shape of its towers, which resemble pigeons perched on a rock. There are still others who claim that wild pigeons settled on the cliffs and that the town was named after them.